By Airman 1st Class Kaylee Clark
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Airmen are always encouraged to set themselves apart from the group and think outside the “box.” They have been told to be innovative, an exemplification of the core values and a true example to the generations that will follow. Senior Airman Yolanda Gabriel, a 19th Comptroller Squadron financial technician, is doing just that.
Gabriel saw an opportunity to reach out to the younger generation, so she created the Soaring Stars Mentorship Program that tutors 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students who attend Arnold Drive Elementary School at Little Rock Air Force Base. The program is every Thursday from 2:45 – 3:30 p.m. Gabriel’s goal is to expand the program to even more schools in the future.
The Soaring Stars Mentorship Program, which started Nov. 2012 with only a handful of volunteers, now has more than 60. On average there will be about eight to 10 students per session, with eight to 10 volunteers each Thursday, allowing 1-on-1 interaction. Sometimes, depending on the amount of students that show up, there can be a 2-on-1 atmosphere (2 students to 1 volunteer or the opposite). Gabriel said the program’s initiative is to allow the kids to have fun while also learning their current studies without being in a pressured environment.
Volunteers help the students work on homework or a subject with which they may have difficulties. A 3rd grade student said, “I like the program. It helps me get caught up on my homework.”
Kristen Beach, Arnold Drive Elementary principal, said, “This is something that I feel the students have enjoyed, and they look forward to Thursday afternoons when they can stay afterschool and have some quality time with someone who truly cares.”
The mentoring program does more than just help kids withschool work; it also gives the volunteers a chance to act as a big brother or big sister.
“I love this mentorship program,” said Gabriel. “It’s feels good when the students smile when you walk through the door. Just recently a student came up to me and another volunteer who helped him out with his spelling. He was so excited to show us that he made a 94 on his test, and that made me excited as well. That really made me feel like what we are doing is not in vain.”
Although, the program has only reached Arnold Drive Elementary School, Gabriel’s future plans are to expand to local schools in and around Jacksonville, Ark. And with the volunteers rapidly expanding, Gabriel sees that as a big possibility. Beach hopes to see the program continue and grow. “Without a doubt, I can say that the impact provided by this volunteer effort has been nothing but positive. The parents are delighted with the time these mentors are willing to spend working with their children. The teachers are grateful for the extra support given and the opportunity for students to hear information from a